Most Popular Logistics Stories from 2021
Last week, Clint Reiser published an article highlighting our 2022 supply chain predictions. While we have published predictions about supply chain technology trends at the beginning of the year in past years. This year we have decided to lead with our predictions about the broader supply chain function. While we look ahead to the future, I think it is also important to look back on the year that was. So, I want to take this opportunity to reflect on the top 15 most popular logistics stories from 2021 and see what our readers found to be the most interesting. It was good mix of topics and authors, including a good number from our Logistics Viewpoints sponsors. So let’s take a look now at the 15 most popular logistics stories.
- Asian Paints Supply Chain: Adaptive and Resilient; Chris Cunnane
Two adjectives that often describe the most successful supply chains are adaptive and resilient. An adaptive supply chain is one that is able to respond quickly to changes and disruption, and the ensuing changes to demand. A resilient supply chain is able to recover quickly from these disruptions. These terms perfectly describe the Asian Paints supply chain.
- A First-Hand Look at Berkshire Grey’s Warehouse Robotic Solutions; Clint Reiser
The Boston area is a hubfor warehouse robotics companies. Living and working in this area provides me with the opportunity to schedule site visits at many of these innovative firms. Most recently, I visited the Berkshire Grey (BG) corporate office for an in-depth discussion about the company’s business, followed by a tour of the Berkshire Grey Innovation Center. The BG innovation center is an operating warehouse where the development team creates, tests, and enhances its solutions.
- Amazon Supply Chain Innovation Continues; Chris Cunnane
Three years ago, my colleague Steve Banker wrote an article about the Amazon supply chain, asking if it was the most innovative in the world. In the article, he wrote about Amazon Relay, the acquisition of Whole Foods, Amazon the carrier, and the expansion of its warehousing capabilities. As the world is in year two of the Covid pandemic, and the supply chain landscape has changed, it is time to revisit Amazon’s supply chain and see how it has changed and how prepared it is for the future.
- Procurement and Supply Chain are Smarter Together – Practical Use Cases; Dr. Madhav Durbha (Coupa)
In a previous post, I made a case for how the Chief Supply Chain Officer (CSCO) and Chief Procurement Officer (CPO) are smarter together. I took the viewpoint that as the need for supply chain resiliency becomes front and center, CSCOs and CPOs will need to collaborate very closely; and shared the reasons why this is more important than ever. Accordingly Supply Chain and Procurement will need continuous collaboration. However, in spite of the best intentions, such close collaboration has not always been practical. The processes at the boundaries of these organizations in many companies stayed fragmented and were highly manual at best.
- Customer-Obsessed Businesses are Upping Their Last-Mile Game; Kushal Nahata (FarEye)
A report published by IBM states that the pandemic has powered the shift away from stores to online shopping by close to five years. Data from the U.S. Commerce Department shows that online retail sales jumped 32.4% year-on-year in 2020 with a 39% increase in Q1 2021. With more and more people shopping online retailers are upping their last-mile game to deliver delightful consumer experiences. The growing e-commerce ecosystem has put a sharp focus on the business of last-mile deliveries. A smooth home delivery process is a critical part of keeping the end consumer happy and satisfied.
- Continuous Warehouse Optimization and The DC Technology Gap; Justin Ritter and Dan Keller (Lucas Systems)
Distribution is no longer a backwater of the economy, due in large part to the upheavals brought on by ecommerce. Today’s DCs and fulfillment centers are a major driver of employment growth and a highly visible proving ground for autonomous robots and other next-generation technologies. But there is a technology gap between gleaming new automated facilities and tens of thousands of existing warehouses and distribution centers that pre-date the warehouse building boom of the past 5-10 years. For companies across industries, transforming existing DCs and narrowing this technology gap is key to competitive advantage in a changing economy. Many companies are achieving this transformation by adopting modular, elastic DC technologies – including AI and robotics – that provide continuous warehouse optimization without replacing their current monolithic and static warehouse systems.
- Artificial Intelligence In The Warehouse Is Coming Sooner Than You Might Think; Joe Blazick (Lucas Systems)
Artificial Intelligence is not a new technology, but widespread adoption and use of AI and machine learning in supply chainis still in its infancy. Nevertheless, there are indications that AI in the warehouse is becoming a reality a lot sooner than most people might have expected. Preliminary results from a Lucas-commissioned survey of 350 companies in the US and UK found that the majority of the companies are already employing AI in one way or another within their warehouses and distribution/fulfillment centers. A separate survey of retail and CPG supply chain leaders found that AI usage is more prevalent in DCs and warehouses than elsewhere in supply chain – 54% in distribution/fulfillment centers vs. 36% in other supply chain functions. On the surface, that’s a bit of a surprise. But not when you dig a little deeper.
- What is Supply Chain Resiliency?; Ross Spanier (GlobalTranz)
If your company’s supply chain survived 2020 and the disruptions of early 2021, it’s safe to say it has passed the supply chain resiliency test. Supply chain disruption has many sources: tariffs and trade disputes, natural disasters, pandemics, economic uncertainty and cybersecurity attacks. Each disruption has its own nuances, so it’s challenging to plan a precise response to each one. The goal is to build a supply chain that can stretch and recover from the inevitable disruptions from a whole host of threats.
- Walmart’s Massive Investment in a Supply Chain Transformation; Steve Banker
Walmart has been very open about what it takes to compete with Amazon. Following their fourth quarter results, top executives talked about their supply chain and omnichannel strategyat a high level. Brett Biggs, an executive vice president at Walmart, summarized the investments by saying the retailer is spending on increased fulfillment capacity, supply chain, automation, and technology. This new infrastructure will allow the retailer to expand ecommerce assortment while reducing both shipping time and cost. Walmart is making investments in warehouse automation in distribution centers to deliver aisle and department-ready pallets to stores. Walmart is also investing pickup and delivery capacity.
- Supply Chain Cybersecurity: Tips for Shippers to Mitigate Cyber Attacks; Darwin Porter & Ryan Pettit (GlobalTranz)
Cyberattacks seem to be growing in prevalence and severity, particularly those around the major supply chains in the US, including both the fuel supply chain and the food supply chain. On June 2, 2021, The Wall Street Journalreported that a ransomware attack against JBS had resulted in the cancellation of shifts across all US plants. Such an event has constrained the meat supply chain more than ever, sparking fears of massive food shortages, and it comes mere weeks after the other major cyberattack to strike the US—halting the operation of the Colonial Pipeline.
- Why Route Optimization is Important During the Driver Shortage; Chris Jones (Descartes)
Pick your country, but you will find the same story: there are not enough drivers to meet transportation demand and the situation is not likely to change for years. Ecommerce experienced significant growth globally during the pandemic and is not slowing down as countries continue to open up. Other country-specific factors, such as Brexit which caused approximately 60,000* European drivers to leave the UKand an aging workforce and competition from other professions in the US, have put pressure on fleet operators to find drivers to meet market demand. The issues facing the transportation market are structural—even increasing salaries dramatically has not created a flood of driver applicants. Fleet operators need to mitigate the impact of the driver shortage by improving the productivity and retention of existing drivers. Route optimization plays a critical role in increasing the effective capacity of existing drivers and in helping to keep them.
- A Multibillion-Dollar Supply Chain Market Growing at a Double Digit Rate that Nobody Knows About; Steve Banker
There is a multibillion-dollar supply chain software market that grew at double digit rates during the pandemic, and will continue to grow fast, that very few supply chain executives have heard of. How can this be?
- Three Logistics Imperatives for Managing Uncertainty in 2022; Terence Leung (Blue Yonder)
After experiencing an incredibly challenging two years in the global logistics industry, I think we can let go of any expectation that the supply chain landscape will ever return to “normal.” By that, I mean that extreme uncertainty on both the demand and the supply sides will continue for the foreseeable future.
- 2021 Supply Chain Technology Trends to Watch; Steve Banker, Chris Cunnane, and Clint Reiser
There are some young supply chain technologies that are getting a lot of buzz. But how mature are these technologies? Do they have a proven ROI? Are they worth piloting? Or can companies safely ignore them? There are also promising technologies that we expect will deliver great value. But we can’t document the ROI or other benefits at this point. Finally, there are technologies that do generate value that few people have heard of. In this article, the main hyped, promising, and solid solutions but widely adopted technologies in supply chain management are discussed.
- Agility is not Resilience; Steve Banker
Business professionals talk about “agility” and “resilience” as if they are the same thing. They are not. A company with an agile supply chain can react quickly to big increases or decreases in demand. An agile company is like a half back in football that can dart quickly to the left or the right depending upon the opening. A resilient company has little or no debt. Even better, a resilient company is sitting on a lot of cash. A resilient company is like a boxer that can take hard punches and keep on battling.